We are stoked to officially introduce Drake Johnson to the CCS skate team. We'd call him our secret weapon, but when the footage of him skating the Embarcadero's 6-stair as a manual pad went viral this summer, the secret was out: Drake rules.

Matt Price spent one day (!) shooting photos with Drake in the Bay Area and then talked with him a bit about moving to SF, bombing hills at 3am, film photography, and the power of a coordinated kit. 


Drake Johnson CCS

CCS: Alright, let’s start with the basics. What’s your name, age, where you’re from, and where do you live now?

Drake: Drake Johnson. I’m 27. My hometown is Columbus, Ohio and I live in San Francisco.

When did you move from Ohio to San Francisco?

Drake: November of 2015. So, it’s been like six years.

What made you move to San Francisco?

Drake: I came with my homies Dan and Kris. We drove out here to visit for two weeks, which was my first time visiting California. We were, like, holy shit this place is real! We were literally just freaking out the entire time, the whole two weeks. Then, we went back home for a couple months, I got my license, I got my van, a shitty ass van, and I was like, "Alright I’m leaving." And, they were like, "I want to go too." I was like, "Word? Alright let’s go."

Wow. So, you just went out, saw what it was about, and then you’re like, "Oh shit we need to be here", and then you just made it happen.

Drake: Yeah, literally. I didn’t know what we were going to do. We had a tent and we were going to sleep in someone’s backyard. We were also going to camp along the way out there. But, we quickly realized that my friend Chris didn’t have his tent poles. So, then we got out to San Francisco and surprised my other homie, and he was like, "My roommates just moved out. Do you want to stay in this room?" And we just ended up staying in that room.

Wow.

Drake: Dude, he was like, "My roommates moved out four days ago." I was like, "We left four days ago!" So, we stayed there and that kind of got our foot in the door.

So, it was just meant to be.

Drake: Exactly.

Drake Johnson skates San Francisco

What was skating in Columbus like when you were growing up?

Drake: The scene in Columbus, hmm, I don’t know, it wasn’t a huge scene. There was a group of our older homies that used to skate. The Embassy crew, the OG Embassy crew. Our homies like Franz, Ben Perkins, the Homie Joe, Barkow who’s the dude who owns the shop. There was me and my homies, the older OG dudes, and then a couple of these younger dudes had this crew called Kingdom crew, or some shit like that. And it was really flat. Really shitty, crusty, kind of like east coast type shit, but it’s the midwest or whatever you want to call it. We would just push everywhere for miles, just to get somewhere to start skating. Cops were annoying, but we kind of just did whatever we wanted to. We went to the Ohio State campus all the time, but there wasn’t too much of a scene until we’d been skating for five or six years.

So you guys kind of helped build a bigger scene out there?

Drake: Yeah, exactly. Besides the OG dudes, who actually started it. When we got this skatepark called Skate Naked, that’s when everybody really linked up. We had a good indoor park and that was a big part of making the scene.

Drake Johnson hippie jump

So what year did you start skating?

Drake: Fuck, when did I start skating... I had rollerblades when I was young and had been on skateboards, but I started actually trying to skateboard when I was twelve or something like that. Yeah, I was twelve, because I used to rollerblade and then I met up with my homies Jesse and Nathan. And I was like, "Oh I’m trying to skate with y’all." I went and skated with them, but they were on skateboards and I was on rollerblades. They were like, "You should try this." So I tried it, and I just got bodied on a rail in a driveway. And, I was like "Oh this is so sick!"

So, the first time you were actually skateboarding you tried someone’s flatbar and you just ate shit?

Drake: Yeah, I stood on the board and was like, "Yeah this is cool, whatever." Then, they asked if I wanted to try this rail. I was like "Yeah." So, they had this rail going down their driveway and they set me up in boardslide position and I was super fucking ready to do it. Then, they let me go and I was gone. I got super bodied. But, I was like, “Yo, that was so sick!” Then I tried to get a board for a minute, but they ended up giving me a shitty one. Then, maybe like a year later I ended up getting one from my Mom.

So, slamming was what got you psyched on skating?

Drake: Dude, it was sick because eating shit on a skateboard was just like this weird board attached to my feet and now I have to figure out how to keep it there. And, it was so fun. I was like, "I’m going to figure this out."

Drake Johnson pop shuvit

What were some of the first videos you saw or pros you were stoked on?

Drake: Circa. I loved Circa. The It’s Time video, that’s one of my favorite videos. I love fucking Adio, because you know me and my friends like to be stupid, so we were like, Bam he’s sick. So, I liked the Adio Footwear tour video, I think it was.

Was that the one where they are on the private jet? 

Drake: Yeah, they’re on a private jet. They’re listening to Brittney Spears, Toxic in one of the parts.

Yes! They use that fucking Gwen Stefani song too!

Drake: Exactly. So, that video, the It’s Time video, I liked Ride the Sky and shit like that. Because that’s what my homies would watch. I didn’t really have too many videos that they didn’t show me. When Ride the Sky came out they were all wearing Fallens and skinny jeans, you know, all that type of shit. 

It’s crazy, you kind of came up in this era where they were just starting to not make as many full length videos and they were making tour videos, and stuff...trick videos and things. So, it’s an interesting time in skating.

Drake: I would go over to their house and watch a full video, but I never really paid too much attention to like what the video was or what brand it was. I watched skate videos, but I never knew what they were, you know? I had seen Mind Field, but for the longest time, I hadn’t known that I’d seen Mind Field, you know? I just knew that I watched these dudes skate in this video that was sick as fuck. I was like damn that video is tight and I didn’t even know what it was called. Same thing with a whole bunch of other videos. I had also watched some of Mouse, but never knew it was called Mouse. Oh, and the Ipath video.

Oh! The Ipath promo?

Drake: Yes.

That one was so good with that Matt Rodriguez part!

Drake: Yeah, that one.

Was the Ipath Promo the first time you saw much San Francisco skating?

Drake: Yeah, actually I think so.

Drake Johnson skate

Are you much of a hill bomber yourself?

Drake: Yeah. I love bombing hills. On that first trip there, that’s all we did. We would just eat mushrooms and bomb hills til like three in the morning. Like, everyday. Then we started running into people, not physically but just seeing other people, and we were like, "Ah I don’t want to see people," because we were always on mushrooms. So, we kind of stopped doing it as much as we did. But, that’s my shit. I love bombing hills.

That’s like the old stories of Freddy Gall and Mike Daher. Taking acid and bombing hills all night.

Drake: It’s just the simple things you know? Eat a little bit of acid, eat a little bit of mushrooms, and go ride your skateboard.

You shoot film photos too right? What got you into analog photography?

Drake: Yeah, I shoot film only. I just got my first digital camera, but I haven’t used it yet. I just like shooting photos and capturing moments. What really got me into it was back in the day I would see my dad with a camera taking pictures of us all the time. So, I always liked to act like I was looking through cameras as a kid. Then, my friend Brent Brayden, he’s one of my best friends ever, and he’s also one of the first dudes I’ve skated with. He would literally take the best photos ever. So, he was a super big inspiration for me with shooting photos because he would always capture shit exactly how we would see it. You know? He would capture something and we’d be like, "Damn that’s sick", or he would capture things that we weren’t even paying attention to. We’d be like, "How do you do that? That shit was hype." And, then my mom always told me to make memories and I feel like that’s the best way to have memories. Through a photograph. 

I know you shoot a lot of just your friends hanging out and stuff, but 10, 20, 30 years down the line, you’re going to be really stoked you have all those photos of everyone when they were young. 

Drake: Exactly, exactly.

Drake Johnson skateboard

So, for this interview, we shot all this stuff in one day in SF and in Oakland. It’s interesting, because you were hyped to go shoot the photos and shoot skate photos and portraits and all this and knew what the piece was going to be; but it seems like a lot of skaters your age and younger now, they maybe don’t put so much emphasis on getting skate photos anymore. I think everybody is just hyped up on footage. What do you think draws you to shooting skate photos in a time where it doesn’t seem to be the main focus of other skaters your age? 

Drake: Well, besides just getting a skate photo, capturing the moment in a creative way is super sick. And, then also it’s a different way to look at things. Say you shoot a photo, everyone’s going to be like, "Oh I want to see that footage." It gives you anticipation, gives you some shit to build up, and gives you something to look forward to. If a photo I got gets posted or ran or whatever the fuck, It’s like, I’m waiting to see that footage now. Like, I want to see that. Also, I just like it being captured in a different way. I like the stillness of something that’s moving and it being captured in a way, that you don’t know what the fuck is going on, and it just looks beautiful.  

That makes sense. I always think that nowadays it’s ok for there to be footage tricks and photo tricks. Right? Like, oh I wouldn’t film this, but it would be a sick photo, so let’s go shoot it. 

Drake: We tried to shoot a photo of this manual I did at Embarcadero and it was just not it. We were just like, we don’t need to do this, this is more of a footage trick, than a photo trick. You know, that doesn’t take away from the trick or anything.

Drake Johnson skateboarder

The way that skate videos have changed, there’s not really as many full-lengths these days. There’s a lot of Instagram shit. Do you think it is possible to have a skate career at this point without ever really putting together a video part? And, if so, is that good or bad to you?

Drake: I think it’s possible that you can have a career without ever dropping a part. I feel like there’s already kids doing that. It might be a different career, but I mean there are definitely kids that are doing it. People just like them so much, and everybody is so into the internet, that they will get on some company. The company will be like, "Oh yeah people like you, you’re very marketable, whatever...we’ll put you on," just because you’ll sell boards and it doesn’t matter how you do it.
Do I think it’s good or bad? I think it’s good for skateboarders, in the sense that skateboarders don’t ever get paid for shit, skateboarders have to try so fucking hard to get absolutely nothing, you know what I’m saying?

Yeah.

Drake: It’s cool, there can be skateboarders who don’t like the whole van vibe and going on trips all the time. They might not like that, but they really love skateboarding and they’re really good. And, it’s sick that they are being able to make money and continue to do what they love to do. But, if you suck as a person and you’re making money off skateboarding, I don’t give a fuck, that’s wack. Go make a part and then I’ll maybe hear you out but, if you’re a nice person and you just like to skate and you’re posting stuff on Instagram and somebody wants to give you money or boards, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. 

Yeah, that makes sense.

Drake: It’s whatever. You know, like, don’t hate the player, hate the game. I’m not about to hate on no skateboarder for making money skateboarding. You know what I’m saying? Whether it’s on Instagram or in video parts or whatever. Like, I’m not about to hate on you. Your skating is making you money, isn’t that what we would all like to do? Yeah, cool, you did it, I’m proud of you. But, you know, some people just do it weird. I’ll say that. 

CCS Skate Team Drake Johnson

Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. It is weird, when you break it down. Skaters talking shit on other skaters just for skating and making a little money off it.

Drake: Yeah, just because you don’t like it... actually most of the time it’s not even because they don’t like it, because a lot of the time, the skateboarders that are talking shit about making money off of Instagram, if they could do it, they would. If they were getting hit up with those same opportunities, a lot of them would say yeah. So, it’s like, shut up. 

(Laughs) And, if they didn’t it’s because they had money elsewhere, which is fine, but it’s like, then don’t talk shit, if you’ve got support from somewhere else.

Drake: Yeah! Exactly!

I know you do modeling work on the side from skating too. How much work do you get in that world?

Drake: I mean, that’s really the only work that I do outside of skateboarding. I also just shot photos for this wine company, but that was the only time I got paid for shooting the photos. Other than that I just do modeling and I kind of do it like. I wouldn’t say I do it super frequently, but I have a couple good jobs a year. At least, to where it will help me pay rent for a few months or something like that, because I have cheap rent. I don’t have an agency or a manager, or anything like that, so it just kind of comes whenever it comes.

 Drake Johnson CCS Team

I’ve heard about brands in the skate industry being bummed on their riders' modeling and it always seemed kind of crazy to me, that a skate brand who may not be supporting them that much monetarily could be bummed that they’re going and getting some money somewhere else.

Drake: Yeah. I don’t understand that, because it doesn’t take away from that person’s skateboarding. Somebody might post more modeling or do a lot of modeling and it may not seem like they are skating, but skateboarders are broke. And, if they can model for a day or two and make a couple thousand dollars or a couple hundred dollars, whatever the case may be, it’s like why not? I don’t see why skate companies don’t want people on their teams that are well-rounded. It seems like some of these companies only want skateboarders that are only into skateboarding and that’s all they do. It’s like, I feel it, that’s what you’re branding is, but it’s also like, if you have somebody on your team that’s pretty good at what they do and then they also do other shit, more people will see them, so more people will probably buy your shit. Like someone may buy their board or shoes or something because they just think they’re cool. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want that person on your team. 

I was stoked on the day we shot all this that you showed up with a color coordinated kit, and you even mentioned that you and your friends like clothes and like skating and that you wanna look a certain way when you skate.

Drake: If you feel like you look good, then you are going to feel good. And, if you feel good you’re gonna be like, "I really want to land this clip because it’s going to look cool", because most of the time when people are skating, you want your trick to look cool. That is why people redo tricks over and over. Oh, my hand touched, that looked like shit. Oh, I landed weird, that looked like shit, let me redo it. So, it’s the same thing when it comes to your clothes. There are so many tricks that I’ve tried that I haven’t landed and then I look back on the footage and am like, thank god I didn’t land that, because my fit was trash. I don’t give a fuck about what anybody else has to say about me, if I think I look good, I’m going to skate way better than I would if I was wearing some garbage ass fit, or some shoes that don’t match, or a board that don’t feel good. 

Drake Johnson

Who’s someone in skateboarding who has a great personal style to you?

Drake: My best friend, Nathan Horn. He has always been the dude that I have always thought looks the sickest out of everybody. I used to try to look like him and made myself look like shit. But now, I got my own shit. Now, I’m a grown up (laughs). But, actually in skateboarding… Windsor James looked tight, but he was very simple, but maybe that’s why I like him, because I like simple stuff. Sometimes I like crazy though. Who do I like now, who looks cool now? Carlyle [Aikens], Lil Dre... Lil Dre just looks sick as fuck. And, when he skates, it looks even better. Carl looks effortless, it looks like he’s not trying, even though he probably thought about his fit, for like 30 minutes or an hour in the morning. It looks like he didn’t even try. It looks amazing. You know what I’m saying?

I love that you brought up Windsor James, because he was killing it in an era where everyone was wearing skinny jeans and skating big rails. He was skating the same gnarly shit but, he was doing it in baggy jeans, a tall  tee and a New Era hat.

Drake: That shit was crazy and I was wearing tight jeans and all of that when I was watching it. But, I was like, this dude looks so sick. I was like, he’s just wearing a little baggier pants, baggier shirt, and just killing it. I always thought he looked so sick. 

Well those are all the questions I’ve got. Is there anyone you wanna thank?

Drake: My mom, my dad, Eric Barkow (from Embassy), Sasquad, all the people that I love, and mushrooms. 

Shout out mushrooms. Thanks for taking the time! 

Drake: Shout out to you!

Oh, shut up, you’re not allowed to shout me out when I did the interview. Then it looks like I put that in there. 

Drake Johnson Hardflip


More great stuff coming from Drake and the entire CCS Team on the CCS Instagram. While your on your phone, might as well connect with us via Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok, and Youtube.

And make sure to follow Drake at @nappyfriedchicken.

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